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Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee found in Pico Rivera

April 02, 2013|By Robert J Lopez
  • Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee, seen in this 2011 photo, was found in Pico Rivera after he was reported missing.
Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee, seen in this 2011 photo, was found in Pico… (LIZ O. BAYLEN / Los Angeles…)

Two-time Olympic diving champion Sammy Lee, who had been missing after leaving his Huntington Beach home, was found in Pico Rivera Tuesday night, police said.

The 92-year-old Lee, who suffers from dementia, drove from Huntington Beach to Mojave to Studio City, was found by authorities in Pico Rivera, Lt. Gary Faust of the Huntington Beach Police Department told The Times.

Faust said there were no immediate details on Lee's condition. Lee, who gained fame as a platform diver, also has a history of heart problems, according to police.

Lee left his home Monday about 3 p.m. to go swimming at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley, which was his common practice. 

Police said that Lee purchased gas in Mojave about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. He was driving his tan 2011 Mercedes 300 with a California license plate that says "2 Golds."

Investigators traced Lee's credit card purchases and determined that he purchased gas again about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Studio City, Faust said.

He said that the Los Angeles Angeles Police Department was alerted and that officers went to the gas station. But Lee had gone.

"The LAPD verified he was there," Faust said.

Lee is the son of Korean immigrants and won the gold on the men's platform at the 1948 London Games, becoming the first American of Asian descent to win a gold medal. He won again in Helsinki in 1952 at the age of 32, becoming the oldest diver to take home the gold.

Born in Fresno, Lee was raised in Highland Park in Los Angeles and attended Franklin High School. In 2011, he was inducted into the L.A. Unified School District High School Sports Hall of Fame. 

Lee overcame prejudice and discrimination on his way to to Olympic gold. He told The Times in 2011 that he was forced to practice at the Brookside Pool in Pasadena only on Wednesdays -- when it was open to non-whites on the day before it was drained and refilled.

He also recalled being told by a high school administrator not to run for student body president because his school had never elected a non-white candidate. Lee said he won and recalled explaining his victory to the administrator. 

"I said, 'My fellow classmates do not look at me as Korean. They look at me as a fellow American.' "

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Twitter: @LAJourno

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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